Matthew 20:28
Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
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(28) Not to be ministered unto.—The words found a symbolic illustration when our Lord, a few days afterwards, washed the feet of the disciples who were still contending about their claims to greatness (John 13:3-4); and the manner in which St. John connects the act with our Lord’s manifested consciousness of His supreme greatness, seems to show that the words which we find here were then present to his thoughts. The Son of Man seemed to the beloved disciple never to have shown Himself so truly king like and divine as when engaged in that menial act. But that act, we must remember, was only an illustration; and the words found their true meaning in His whole life, in His poverty and humiliation, in the obedience of childhood, in service rendered, naturally or super-naturally, to the bodies or the souls of others.

To give his life a ransom for many.—The word rightly rendered “ransom,” is primarily “a price made for deliverance,” and in this sense it is found in the Greek version of the Old Testament for “the ransom” which is accepted instead of a man’s life in Exodus 21:30, for the “price of redemption” accepted as an equivalent for an unexpired term of service in Leviticus 25:50, for riches as the “ransom of a man’s life” in Proverbs 13:8. No shade of doubt accordingly rests on the meaning of the word. Those who heard could attach no other meaning to it than that He who spake them was about to offer up His life that others might be delivered. Seldom, perhaps, has a truth of such profound import been spoken, as it were, so incidentally. It is as if the words had been drawn from Him by the contrast between the disputes of the disciples and the work which had occupied His own thoughts as He walked on in silent solitude in advance of them. It is the first distinct utterance, we may note, of the plan and method of His work. He had spoken before of “saving” the lost (Matthew 18:11): now He declares that the work of “salvation” was to be also one of “redemption.” It could only be accomplished by the payment of a price, and that price was His own life. The language of the Epistles as to the “redemption that is in Christ Jesus,” our being “bought with a price” (Romans 3:24; 1Corinthians 6:20), “redeemed by His precious blood” (1Peter 1:19), the language of all Christendom in speaking of the Christ as our Redeemer, are the natural developments of that one pregnant word. The extent of the redemptive work, “for many,” is here indefinite rather than universal, but “the ransom for all” of 1Timothy 2:6 shows in what sense it was received by those whom the Spirit of God was guiding into all truth. Even the preposition in, “for many” has a more distinct import than is given in the English version. It was, strictly speaking, a “ransom” instead of, in the place of, (ἀντὶ not ὑπὲρ) “many.” Without stating a theory of the atonement, it implied that our Lord’s death was, in some way, representative and vicarious; and the same thought is expressed by St. Paul’s choice of the compound substantive ἀντίλυτρον, when, using a different preposition, he speaks of it as a ransom for (ὑπὲρ, i.e., on behalf of) all men (1Timothy 2:6).

20:20-28 The sons of Zebedee abused what Christ said to comfort the disciples. Some cannot have comforts but they turn them to a wrong purpose. Pride is a sin that most easily besets us; it is sinful ambition to outdo others in pomp and grandeur. To put down the vanity and ambition of their request, Christ leads them to the thoughts of their sufferings. It is a bitter cup that is to be drunk of; a cup of trembling, but not the cup of the wicked. It is but a cup, it is but a draught, bitter perhaps, but soon emptied; it is a cup in the hand of a Father, Joh 18:11. Baptism is an ordinance by which we are joined to the Lord in covenant and communion; and so is suffering for Christ, Eze 20:37; Isa 48:10. Baptism is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace; and so is suffering for Christ, for unto us it is given, Php 1:29. But they knew not what Christ's cup was, nor what his baptism. Those are commonly most confident, who are least acquainted with the cross. Nothing makes more mischief among brethren, than desire of greatness. And we never find Christ's disciples quarrelling, but something of this was at the bottom of it. That man who labours most diligently, and suffers most patiently, seeking to do good to his brethren, and to promote the salvation of souls, most resembles Christ, and will be most honoured by him to all eternity. Our Lord speaks of his death in the terms applied to the sacrifices of old. It is a sacrifice for the sins of men, and is that true and substantial sacrifice, which those of the law faintly and imperfectly represented. It was a ransom for many, enough for all, working upon many; and, if for many, then the poor trembling soul may say, Why not for me?Even as the Son of man ... - See the notes at Matthew 8:20. Jesus points them to his own example. He was in the form of God in heaven, Philippians 2:6. He came to people in the form of a servant, Philippians 2:7. He came not with pomp and glory, but as a man in humble life; and since he came he had not required them to minister to him. "He labored for them." He strove to do them good. He provided for their needs; fared as poorly as they did; went before them in dangers and sufferings; practiced self-denial on their account, and for them was about to lay down his life. See John 13:4-5.

To give his life a ransom for many - The word "ransom" means literally a price paid for the redemption of captives. In war, when prisoners are taken by an enemy, the money demanded for their release is called a ransom; that is, it is the means by which they are set at liberty. So anything that releases anyone from a state of punishment, or suffering, or sin, is called a ransom. People are by nature captives to sin. They are sold under it. They are under condemnation, Ephesians 2:3; Romans 3:9-20, Romans 3:23; 1 John 5:19. They are under a curse, Galatians 3:10. They are in love with sin They are under its withering dominion, and are exposed to death eternal, Ezekiel 18:4; Psalm 9:17; Psalm 11:6; Psalm 68:2; Psalm 139:19; Matthew 25:46; Romans 2:6-9. They must have perished unless there had been some way by which they could he rescued. This was done by the death of Jesus - by giving his life a ransom. The meaning is, that he died in the place of sinners, and that God was willing to accept the pains of his death in the place of the eternal suffering of the redeemed. The reasons why such a ransom was necessary are:

1. that God had declared that the sinner shall die; that is, that he would punish, or show his hatred to, all sin.

2. that all people had sinned, and, if justice was to take its regular course, all must perish.

3. that man could make no atonement for his own sins. All that he could do, were he holy, would be only to do his duty, and would make no amends for the past. Repentance and future obedience would not blot away one sin.

4. No man was pure, and no angel could make atonement. God was pleased, therefore, to appoint his only-begotten Son to make such a ransom. See John 3:16; 1 John 4:10; 1 Peter 1:18-19; Revelation 13:8; John 1:29; Ephesians 5:2; Hebrews 8:2-7; Isaiah 53:1-12; This is commonly called the atonement. See the notes at Romans 5:2.

For many - See also Matthew 26:28; John 10:15; 1 Timothy 2:6; 1 John 2:2; 2 Corinthians 5:14-15; Hebrews 2:9.

Mt 20:17-28. Third Explicit Announcement of His Approaching Sufferings, Death, and Resurrection—The Ambitious Request of James and John, and the Reply. ( = Mr 10:32-45; Lu 18:31-34).

For the exposition, see on [1331]Mr 10:32-45.

So saith Mark, Mark 10:45. The apostle saith, Philippians 2:7 he made himself of no reputation, and took on him the form of a servant. Our Saviour had before taught them, that the disciple is not above his master. Such, saith our Saviour, as is the King in my kingdom, such must the rulers and great persons in it be. See what a kingdom I have; I came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, to serve the necessities of men’s and women’s souls and bodies; and to give my life a ransom for many, lutron, a redemption price. The apostle useth antilutron, which signifieth a price paid instead of another, 1 Timothy 2:6. So as there is no further satisfaction or price to be paid for any.

Even as the son of man,.... Meaning himself, the seed of the woman, the son of Abraham, and of David, according to the flesh; and whom he proposes as an example of humility, and as an argument to draw them off from their ambitious views of worldly grandeur, and from all thoughts of the Messiah's setting up a temporal kingdom; since he

came not to be ministered unto by others; to be attended on in pomp and state, to have a numerous retinue about him, waiting upon him, and ministering to him; as is the case of the princes, and great men of the world; though he is Lord of all, and King of kings;

but to minister; in the form of a servant unto others, going about from place to place to do good, both to the bodies and souls of men: he "came" forth from his Father, down from heaven, into this world, by his assumption of human nature, to "minister" in the prophetic office, by preaching the Gospel, and working miracles, in confirmation of it; and in the priestly office, one branch of which is expressed in the next clause,

and to give his life a ransom for many: what he came to give was his life, which was his own, and than which nothing is more dear and precious: besides, his life was an uncommon one, being not only so useful to men, and entirely free from sin in itself, but was the life of the man Jesus, who is in union with the Son of God: this he came to "give", and did give into the hands of men, to the justice of God, and death itself; which giving, supposes it to be his own, and at his own disposal; was not forfeited by any act of his, nor was it forced from him, but freely laid down by him; and that as a "ransom", or redemption price for his people, to deliver them from the evil of sin, the bondage of Satan, the curses of a righteous law, from eternal death, and future wrath, and, in short, from all their enemies: which ransom price was paid "for" them in their room and stead, by Christ, as their substitute; who put himself in their legal place, and laid himself under obligation to pay their debts, and clear their scores, and redeem them from all their iniquities, and the evil consequences of them: and this he did "for many"; for as many as were ordained to eternal life; for as many as the Father gave unto him; for many out of every kindred, tongue, and people, and nation; but not for every individual of human nature; for many are not all.

Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
Matthew 20:28. Ὥσπερ] “summum exemplum,” Bengel. Comp. Php 2:5; Romans 15:3; Polyc. Phil. 5: ὃς ἐγένετο διάκονος πάντων. Observe here the consciousness, which Jesus had from the very first, that to sacrifice himself was His great divine mission. Comp. Dorner, sündlose Vollk. Jesu, p. 44 ff.

διακονηθῆναι] to be waited upon, as grandees are.

καὶ δοῦναι] intensive; adding on the highest act, the culminating point in the διακονῆσαι; but δοῦναι is made choice of, because the ψυχή (the soul, as the principle of the life of the body) is conceived of as λύτρον (a ransom); for, through the shedding of the blood (Matthew 26:28; Ephesians 1:7), it becomes the τιμή of the redemption, 1 Corinthians 6:20; 1 Corinthians 7:23. Comp. note on John 10:11.

ἀντὶ πολλῶν] ἀντί denotes substitution. That which is given as a ransom takes the place (is given instead) of those who are to be set free in consideration thereof. The λύτρον (Plat. Legg. xi. p. 919 A, Rep. p. 393 D, Thuc. vi. 5. 4) is an ἀντίλυτρον (1 Timothy 2:6), ἀντάλλαγμα (Matthew 16:26). Whether ἀντὶ πολλῶν should be joined to λύτρον, which is the simpler course, or connected with δοῦναι, is a matter of perfect indifference (in answer to Hofmann, Schriftbew. II. 1, p. 300) so far as the meaning of ἀντί is concerned. In any case, that meaning is strictly and specifically defined by λύτρον (בֹּפֶר),[6] according to which ἈΝΤΊ can only be understood in the sense of substitution in the act of which the ransom is presented as an equivalent to secure the deliverance of those on whose behalf it is paid,—a view which is only confirmed by the fact that in other parts of the New Testament this ransom is usually spoken of as an expiatory sacrifice, Matthew 26:28; John 1:29; 1 John 4:10; Romans 3:25; Isaiah 53:10; 1 Peter 1:18 f., 1 Peter 3:18. That which they are redeemed from is the eternal ἈΠΏΛΕΙΑ, in which, as having the wrath of God abiding upon them (John 3:36), they would remain imprisoned (John 3:16; Galatians 3:13; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24; Colossians 1:14; Colossians 2:13 f.) as in a state of hopeless bondage (Hebrews 2:15), unless the guilt of their sins were expiated.

ΠΟΛΛῶΝ] The vicarious death of Jesus may be described as having taken place for all (Romans 5:18; 1 Timothy 2:6; 1 John 2:2), or for many (so also Matthew 26:28; Hebrews 9:28), according as we regard it as an objective fact (that fact being: Jesus has given His life a ransom for all men), or look at it in relation to the subjective appropriation of its results on the part of individuals (which happens only in the case of believers). So in the present case, where, accordingly, πολλῶν is to be understood as meaning all who believe now and will believe hereafter (John 17:20).

[6] Ritschl, in the Jahrb. f. D. Theol. 1863, p. 222 ff., defines λύτρον as meaning something given by way of equivalent in order to avert death; this, however, is not sufficient, for, throughout the Sept. also, in which כפר is rendered by λύτρον (Exodus 21:30; Exodus 30:12; Numbers 35:31 f.; Proverbs 6:35; Proverbs 13:8), pretium redemtionis is found to be the specific meaning given to the word, although the connection may sometimes admit ex adjuncto the additional idea of something given for the purpose of averting death. The Sept. likewise adheres to the same meaning in cases where other expressions are rendered by λύτρον, such as גְּאֻלָּה (Leviticus 25:24; Leviticus 25:51), הַפְּדֻיִם (Numbers 3:51), פִּדְזו (Exodus 21:30), מְחִיר (Isaiah 45:13). Ritschl interprets our present passage as follows: “I am come to give away my life to God in sacrifice, that I may become the substitute of those who could never hope to succeed in finding, either for themselves or others, any adequate ransom as a means of securing their exemption from death; but the substitute only of those who, through faith and self-denying devotion to my person, fulfil the condition on which alone the ransom furnished by me can procure the hoped for exemption,” p. 238.

Matthew 20:28. ὤσπερ, καὶ γὰρ in Mk.; both phrases introducing reference to the summum exemplum (Bengel) in an emphatic way.—περ lends force to ὡς = even as, observe.—ὁ ὑ. τ. ἀνθρώπου: an important instance of the use of the title. On the principle of defining by discriminating use it means: the man who makes no pretensions, asserts no claims.—οὐκ ἦλθε points to the chief end of His mission, the general character of His public life: not that of a Pretender but that of a Servant.—δοῦναι τὴν ψυχὴν, to give His life, to that extent does the service go. Cf. Php 2:8 : μέχρι θανάτου, there also in illustration of the humility of Christ. It is implied that in some way the death of the Son of Man will be serviceable to others. It enters into the life plan of the Great Servant.—λύτρον, a ransom, characterises the service, another new term in the evangelic vocabulary, suggesting rather than solving a theological problem as to the significance of Christ’s death, and admitting of great variety of interpretation, from the view of Origen and other Fathers, who regarded Christ’s death as a price paid to the devil to ransom men from bondage to him, to that of Wendt, who finds in the word simply the idea that the example of Jesus in carrying the principle of service as far as to die tends by way of moral influence to deliver men’s minds from every form of spiritual bondage (Die Lehre Jesu, ii. 510–517). It is an interesting question, What clue can be found in Christ’s own words, as hitherto reported, to the use by Him on this occasion of the term λύτρον, and to the sense in which He uses it? Wendt contends that this is the best method of getting at the meaning, and suggests as the most congenial text Matthew 11:28-30. I agree with him as to method, but think a better clue may be found in Matthew 17:27, the word spoken by Jesus in reference to the Temple Tax. That word began the striking course of instruction on humility, as this word (Matthew 20:28) ends it, and the end and the beginning touch in thought and language. The didrachmon was a λύτρον (Exodus 30:12), as the life of the Son of Man is represented to be. The tax was paid ἀυτὶ ἐμοῦ καὶ σοῦ. The life is to be given ἀντὶ πολλῶν. Is it too much to suppose that the Capernaum incident was present to Christ’s mind when He uttered this striking saying, and that in the earlier utterance we have the key to the psychological history of the term λύτρον? On this subject vide my book The Kingdom of God, pp. 238–241.

28. a ransom]=the price paid for the redemption of a captive from slavery. For the thought cp. Romans 3:24; 1 Corinthians 6:20; 1 Peter 1:19. The English word is derived through the French rançon from Lat. redemptionem.

for many] Cp. 1 Timothy 2:6, “Who gave himself a ransom for all.”

for] Not ὑπέρ, ‘on behalf of,’ but ἀντί, ‘in the place of.’

Matthew 20:28. Ὤσπερ, κ.τ.λ., even as, etc.) The greatest example which could be adduced or imagined.—διακονῆσαι, to minister, to serve) See Romans 15:8.—καὶ, κ.τ.λ., and, etc.) An ascending climax.—τὴν ψιχὴν Αὐτοῦ, His soul) i.e. Himself; see Galatians 1:4; Galatians 2:20.—λύτρον, a ransom. ἀντὶ πολλῶν, for many) A great ministry, and one of vast condescension. That for which a price is given, is in some sort more an object of desire to him who gives the price than the price itself. And the Redeemer spends Himself for many, not only taken as a whole, but also as individuals.

Verse 28. - Even as. Christ adduces his own example as a pattern of profound humility. To minister. By his incarnation Christ assumed the lowliest life of man. He took upon himself the form of a servant, and was ever active in ministering to others' wants, going about doing good, healing the sick, cleansing lepers, casting out demons; always accessible, sympathetic, merciful; never weary of teaching, however fatigued in body; a servant to the race which he came to save. A ransom for many; λύτρον ἀντὶ πολλῶν: instead of many. The crowning example of his humility is that he gave his life as a ransom for the souls of men. This is the atonement, the sacrificial act, which (as the Mosaic sacrifices did in a partial and temporary manner) reconciled God and man. Whatever may be the way in which this atonement acts on the Divine mind, the expression here shows that it was vicarious and propitiatory, energizing, not by example, as an effort of superhuman self-denial, courage, and patience, but by an inherent power, as mysterious as it is efficacious. We can only say that, being the act of one who is God, its effects must necessarily be incomprehensible and infinite. The difficulties that beset this doctrine are increased by the fact that Jesus himself says little about the atoning nature of his sufferings and death - a topic which would not at this time have been properly received by friends or enemies, the former refusing to credit his approaching death, the latter being totally unable to conceive how such death could supersede Jewish sacrifices and reconcile the whole world to God (Sadler). Christ certainly died for all, as St. Paul says, "He gave himself a ransom for all (ἀντίλυτρον ὑπὲρ πάντων)" (1 Timothy 2:6), but all do not accept the offered salvation; hence arise the two expressions, "all" and "many," referring to the same object; "not," as an old Father says, "that salvation is limited, but men's efforts to obtain it are limited." The same expression was used by our Lord at the Last Supper, when he said, "This is my blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins" (Matthew 26:28). A comparison of the passages in which the death of Christ is connected with the salvation of men would show a similar interchange of terms, depending on the view which the writer is taking of the doctrine, whether an objective one or a subjective. In the former case we may cite Romans 5:15; 2 Corinthians 5:14; 1 Timothy 2:6; 1 John 2:2; in the latter, Romans 3:25, 26; Ephesians 5:2. Matthew 20:28A ransom for many

Compare Sophocles, "Oed. Colossians," 488.

"For one soul working in the strength of love

Is mightier than ten thousand to atone."

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